Forge and Spark B Corp Marketing Faces with Logo

How B Corps and Purpose-Led Brands are Changing Marketing


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At Forge & Spark, we’ve always believed in the power of communication to make a positive impact. So, when we learned that we achieved B Corp certification in August 2022, we were thrilled, relieved, humbled—and a little nervous, too. How would this change the way we told our own story?

For us, the certification wasn’t just a badge of honour; it was a gentle nudge reminding us of the responsibility we carry to our clients, our team, and our planet. It affirmed our commitment to not only delivering premium service, but also to upholding high social and environmental standards. For me personally, it confirmed a sneaking suspicion I’ve always had that business ownership doesn’t have to be an ego-driven, number-crunching affair, and that there is room in entrepreneurship for community, passion and purpose.

Certification has made me sit up a little taller in my seat, as it were. I feel proud and humbled to be a part of the B Corp community, working with other B Corps and values-rooted businesses on their marketing and messaging strategies. Not to mention a little bolder about asserting our own values and purpose in our storytelling; braver about celebrating our triumphs and our tough lessons; and, well, choosier about our partners and vendors—to ensure we’re always aligned with like-hearted people who share our values and vision for a better world.

This blog post dives a little deeper into what B Corps are, how they’re changing our collective perception of business, and how marketing is shifting as a result of this rise in purpose-powered business.

What B Corps Are, and How They’re Transforming Business

B Corps are enterprises committed to using their business as a platform for achieving positive social and environmental change. These companies are certified in meeting high standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

B Corps have emerged as a significant force in global business over the past decade: as HBR reports, the first generation of B Corporations was certified in 2007. As of February 2024, there are 8,254 certified B Corporations across 162 industries in 96 countries. This relatively rapid uptick in the number of B Corps around the world is partly motivated by leaders who are inspired by a commitment to social and environmental impact, accountability, and transparency — and who, like me, also see that their teams and employees are inspired, and take pride, too.

But the growth in numbers is also driven by consumer demand. A study by Nielsen, for example, showed that 81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. Cone Communications has additionally reported that 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about—indicating that consumers are choosing products and services from companies that align with their values. And in 2019 Nielsen also revealed that 73% of global consumers stated that they’d change their consumption behaviour in order to reduce their impact on the environment.

A term often used to identify this shift is “values-based buying.” This underlines the true importance consumers are placing on shared values with company ethics, nudging enterprises to be as concerned with making a positive societal impact as they are with generating profits. And in this ever-evolving landscape, the most successful businesses may just be those who not only adapt to this shift in consumer sentiment, but who actively embrace, live, and communicate it.

The B Corp Certification Process: Not for the Faint of Heart

Forge and Spark B Corp Marketing Hand pasting post its

A key step in committing to this ‘embrace’ can be seen in a company’s willingness to get B Corp Certified—which (as we know firsthand!) is no walk in the park.To become and remain B Corp certified, the company is required to follow a highly structured process, beginning with completing the comprehensive B Impact Assessment, which evaluates social and environmental performance across all stakeholder groups.

Following the completion of this assessment—which took us nearly eight months, to give a sense of the depth and complexity—the applying company must complete a review session with B Lab staff to verify and approve all submitted information.

After a final review and background check, companies meeting all legal requirements (including, in Canada, legally becoming a Benefit Corporation) are certified as B Corps. Hoorah! Final certification involves signing a declaration of interdependence, agreeing to a term sheet, and paying an annual fee.

However, certification is not a one-time event; companies must recertify every three years by completing a new assessment, ensuring ongoing adherence to stringent standards of social and environmental responsibility. Phew! Wish us luck—we’re up for recertification in 2025. 😅

How B Corps and Purpose-Led Brands are Transforming the Marketing Landscape, Too

Forge and Spark B Corp Marketing Tote bag

The shift towards more “values-based buying” (as evidenced by the statistics quoted earlier) is certainly shifting the way brands are communicating with audiences.

We wrote recently about the unique challenges B Corps face in their content marketing and how to address them. This includes things like effectively communicating their values, navigating the complexities of certification, standing out in a crowded market, managing the perception of greenwashing, and maintaining authenticity while scaling.

In our work with B Corp clients, we’ve addressed these challenges in various ways, such as focusing a company’s marketing efforts on purpose- or mission-based storytelling; highlighting B Corp certification as a competitive advantage; and differentiating these brands on the basis of values such as transparency and accountability. By creating and successfully applying marketing strategies rooted in a commitment to social and environmental impact, these companies are seeing success; generating genuine engagement and loyalty amongst their customer base. And you—like us—are almost certainly seeing evidence of such tonal shifts in marketing campaigns worldwide, too.

Canadian clothing brand Kotn, as just one example, speaks in its marketing about prioritizing ethical sourcing of materials and fair labor practices. Kotn Co-Founder Ben Sehl notes that a huge part of the company’s success stems, in fact, from talking about its work in creating ethical systems that value living and working conditions for cotton farmers and garment workers.

But purpose-led companies must take caution when marketing their values too aggressively — always ensuring that your ‘walk’ equates with your ‘talk.’

Take clothing brand Everlane as another fashion brand that takes pride in its values—but that should serve as a bit of a cautionary tale, too. They made a name for themselves in the clothing industry by loudly proclaiming that they strove for “radical transparency” in an industry ripe with fast-fashion and waste. Initially, their marketing worked. They openly showcased their company values in simple language and accessible explanations of their manufacturing processes. Normally these are things we’d celebrate.

In 2020, however, the company was called out in the New York Times for greenwashing—radically—reminding us all of rule #1 in marketing: never make false claims. The brand has since begun to mend its ways, making huge internal shifts to ensure that its walk comes well before its talk; it’s since moved from a ‘not good enough’ rating to an ‘it’s a start’ on watchdog app Good On You. We’ll all keep watching. And hopefully learning, too.

Indeed, this in itself might be seen as progress, in that there’s a vibrant discussion taking place in boardrooms and meeting rooms about the simple fact that companies are being called out loudly when they can’t back up their values claims, and so must be prepared always to provide the evidence that their spoken values are fully lived, in every aspect of the organization.

The Benefits of Purpose- and Values-Rooted Marketing Strategies

Forge and Spark B Corp Marketing Women Trying on clothes

This era of purpose- and values-driven marketing offers a range of advantages for brands who are willing to take up the mantle:

  • Building meaningful connections with socially and environmentally conscious consumers: By aligning your brand with causes and values that resonate with consumers, you create authentic connections and establish a sense of trust and loyalty.
  • Gaining brand loyalty through shared values and authenticity: When consumers identify with a brand’s purpose and values, they’re more likely to develop a strong emotional connection, resulting in long-term loyalty and advocacy.
  • Attracting top talent by showcasing purpose and values: In a highly competitive job market, purpose-led brands have a distinct advantage in attracting talented individuals who seek meaningful work and a sense of purpose. By highlighting their commitment to socially responsible practices, these brands become employers of choice.
  • Growing consumer demand for socially responsible products and services: As consumers increasingly prioritize social and environmental issues, purpose-led brands are met with a growing demand for products and services that align with these values. This creates new opportunities for market growth and expansion.

B Corp Marketing Strategies We Love

The marketing strategies of B Corps are as varied as the impacts they’re making. Here are a few standout examples that inspire, engage, and reassure the conscious consumers of their products.

Patagonia’s ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ campaign

Remember this one? A true classic. Patagonia shocked the world with their Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign all the way back in 2011, encouraging audiences to rethink consumption, and their buying habits. The initiative resonated with conscientious customers and reaffirmed Patagonia’s commitment to reduce waste and promote sustainability.

Tentree’s voice and tone

Here’s a company dear to our hearts—and close to our base, too—in beautiful Vancouver, B.C.! Tentree is a Canadian clothing company and certified B Corp that pledges to plant 10 trees for every item sold. Their marketing strategy centres around a humble, yet passionate voice and tone, particularly in their web copy and social media. By sharing their journey of creating change and demonstrating their commitment to the environment, they have fostered a deep connection with their customer base.

Seventh Generation’s focus on product transparency and sustainability

Seventh Generation, the well-known cleaning product brand, goes above and beyond the usual marketing content by prioritizing product transparency and sustainability. Their marketing strategy revolves around these core values, ensuring that customers are well-informed about the environmental impact of each product while also promoting healthier alternatives. By doing so, they not only build trust with their audience but also cater to the growing demand for socially responsible choices.

Genus Capital’s story-package approach to connecting with impact investors

We’re tooting our own horn here, because Genus is one of our clients, and we’ve been closely and proudly involved in this B Corp’s push to create a body of journalist-penned, premium articles—packaged with social posts and ad campaigns—aimed at their target audience of investors who want to do good with their dollars. A pioneer in the sustainable-investing space, Genus has worked determinedly with us to deliver this content strategy over the last few years. The reward has been a steady increase in engagement and conversions, connecting with clients who care deeply about driving environmental and social change using their financial portfolios.

Change your Marketing Game as a B Corp or Purpose-Led Business

So… what do you think? Are you convinced, like us, that purpose-led marketing strategies are a game-changer? We’ve gained so much clarity in our own messaging since becoming a BCorp, as have our clients, from focusing their marketing efforts through the lens of their purpose. And we’ve been truly fortunate to work alongside so many amazing brands and businesses who live their values, driving positive change alongside business—and as a result, connecting with like-minded customers who share their vision for a better world.

Interested in becoming one of them, or learning more about our experience with marketing for B Corps? Get in touch!

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